August 19, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin (6) signals for a pitching change against the New York Mets during the sixth inning at O.co Coliseum. The Athletics defeated the Mets 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
It is no secret how great a fit Bob Melvin has been with the Oakland Athletics.
Since his mid-season hiring in 2011, the Athletics have reached the postseason three times, won two division titles, and defied all of the odds. Yes, all of them.
It is also no secret that general manager Billy Beane has given the team an extreme makeover this winter (see pretty much every article on our site since October).
Beane’s moves are not just a budget-fueled juggling routine, but are proof that he believes not just in the players he acquired, but in the men entrusted with leading them on the field.
Melvin has been the man filling out the lineup card for three-plus years. His ability to mix and match on a daily basis shows not only his willingness to go along with is happening in Oakland, but also his creativity and adaptability.
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The two-time manager of the year is 818-768 over 11 years as a a major league manager. He previously managed for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Seattle Mariners.
In 2012 Curt Young returned to his role as pitching coach for the Oakland Athletics after a brief stint with the Boston Red Sox. Chili Davis was hired as hitting coach, and Mike Gallego and Ty Waller returned to their respective places along the baselines.
That group, led by Melvin, took a roster full of rookies and leftovers to the postseason following a third place finish the year before.
Chili Davis has moved on, agreeing to a deal with the Red Sox, but Young, Gallego and Waller remain.
We know what Gallego brings to the coaching staff. And Waller is well-researched, and well-prepared as first base coach. Perhaps that’s why the base stealers on the team such high rates of success.
Feb 22, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics bullpen coach Darren Bush poses for a portrait during photo day at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Replacing Davis is Darren Bush, who managed at triple-A Sacramento for two seasons prior to being named the Oakland bullpen coach in 2013.
As hitting coach Bush will have every opportunity to work with the five I just mentioned and get the most out of them.
Lawrie, Semien, Davis, and Canha have yet to reach the level that Moss and Donaldson reached in their two-plus years in Oakland. Beane is betting big that Bush can take them there.
The starting rotations of the 2012 and 2013 AL west champion Athletics are completely gone. Some due to trades or free agency, other to the dreaded ghost of Tommy John.
That won’t stop Curt Young from piecing together an elite pitching staff.
In 2012 Young took Bartolo Colon, oft-injured righty Brandon McCarthy, career journeyman and lovable Aussie Travis Blackley, and the trio of rookies A.J. Griffin, Jarrod Parker, and Tommy Milone, the owners of six previous major league starts combined, and squeezed out the second best rotation ERA in the AL.
Collectively the Oakland Athletics that year had the AL’s best ERA when you factor in relievers.
Jul 12, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jesse Chavez (60) and pitching coach Curt Young (41) talk on the pitchers mound during the second inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
But that group included a similarly ragged bunch. Former first base prospect Sean Doolittle learned how to pitch the previous season, began dominating in the major leagues upon his call-up. Ryan Cook, a rookie who failed as a starting pitcher in the minors, became an all-star. Jerry Blevins was the leader in the bullpen.
Fast forward to today and it’s all the same, only the names have changed.
Young has proven he is up to the task of turning this “rebuilt” pitching staff and making it a winner.
Fans and executives give Beane plenty of credit for piecing together quality team after quality team.
I say it’s time we start giving the Oakland Athletics coaches their due.